Blood. Bones. Brains. Hearts. Severed tongues. Flesh.
For most of us, these words conjure up gruesome images of horror films, HBO crime dramas, or a certain holiday that is just around the bend.
But to the Japanese, these words mean but one thing:
Now, what exactly is “horumon?” Yes, it sounds a lot like the word hormone, which evoke embarrasing images of 6th grade sex-ed, voice-cracking and hair growing in funny places, but “horumon,” a type of Japanese food, has little or nothing to do with such phenomena (thank god!).
According to some, there are a couple of origins for the word horumon:
One common theory is that it “comes from from the dialect word horu (”to throw away”) andmon, a dialectal variant of mono (thing). In previous times, innards are thought as a part to be thrown away after cutting other edible muscles. Horumon is very popular part of meat but it was not some time ago.”
Another theory is, “horumon was a name caught onto the popularity of Hormone that was a catch-phrase after the end of World War Ⅱ. The word Hormone was popular because it means physiologically active substance and it was regarded as a good word in the high economic growth period. As above, horumon had a bad image because the shape is grotesque and it is cheaper than other part of meat. But now people think that horumon is good for building energy.”
Regardless of where this word originated, horumon has become quite a popular food item these days in Japan. It can be purchased in many yakiniku places and bars, and in some restaurants horumon is even the sole focus.
Here’s an example of a horumon focused menu. Those that are faint of heart (or stomach) proceed with caution.
…mmm…womby, lungy, sinewy goodness…just like mom used to make!
From what I hear, this is pretty standard fare for horumon. Trust me, it’s not just some halloween gimmick. Moreover, who’s to say that lungs, wombs, and other offal (yes…thats pronounced “awful”) can’t be delicious?
To the best of my knowledge, Westerners, at least in the case of North Americans, are pretty fussy when it comes to food. While most Americans judge the quality of meat by it’s fat content (lower being better) and its general appearance (beef patties, anyone?), the rest of the world swears by, and makes use of all the “scraps” Americans commonly throw out.
Meat isn’t white enough? Don’t buy it…
Too much fat on it? Cut it off, push it aside…
Blood on it? Wash it off!
and organ meats? Don’t even think about it!
In our superficial, “have-it-your-way” society, we eat what we understand, and fear what we don’t. But is this really how it should be?
Having spent a good deal of my childhood traveling between America and Taiwan, odd foods are something I have become accustomed to seeing in my life. Pig heads, freshly decapitated, resting on a marketplace counter? Check. Gleaming, dripping entrails dangling from hooks? Check. Live chickens and frogs being dismembered in front of you? Check, check, check. Still, despite all these experiences, Western culture has still found a way to brainwash me into thinking “if it looks weird or smells weird, don’t eat it.” It’s uncanny.
One thing in particular that I’ve never fancied are organ meats. From the way they look, to the strange texture they have, innards have always been something I’ve only wanted one set of inside of me. Still, in numerous cultures, organ meats are the most prized of delicacies–saved for the leaders or guests of honor. So if they’re good enough for them, shouldn’t they be good enough for me?
Well, you and I both are about to find out…
I came to Japan to immerse myself in a new culture. To face new challenges. To learn new things about myself. So thats why in Part 2 of this article, I will go where no Westerner has gone, and give insight to the mystery otherwise known as…
…a horumon bar.